Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 8:56 am | Fog/Mist 58º


Local News

Despite Efforts to Shun Spotlight, Ed Birch’s Star Shines Ever So Brighter

Santa Barbara Foundation’s Man of the Year may prefer the background but recognition proves his role at the center of community

Ed Birch will receive the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Man of the Year award this week for his commitment to philanthropy. “It’s hugely rewarding,” he says of his dedication to the community. “It’s hard not to want to be involved.” Click to view larger
Ed Birch will receive the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Man of the Year award this week for his commitment to philanthropy. “It’s hugely rewarding,” he says of his dedication to the community. “It’s hard not to want to be involved.” (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Ed Birch’s name just climbed atop a lofty list where he never imagined it would be.

Sure, he’s used his position as a seasoned Santa Barbara banker and higher education administrator to identify and assist philanthropic organizations in need.

But he didn’t do it for the recognition. Definitely not for the publicity.

“It’s hugely rewarding,” the humble 78-year-old Birch said of his commitment to the community. “It’s hard not to want to be involved.”

Nonetheless, Birch will receive the 73rd Man of the Year Award from the Santa Barbara Foundation during a ceremony Wednesday at the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

Vicki Hazard will be honored with the 73rd Woman of the Year Award at the event, which is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation, Montecito Bank & Trust and Noozhawk.

Birch recently shared with Noozhawk the story of how he ended up in Santa Barbara. The conversation took place in his second-floor office in La Arcada, where he serves as president and CEO of the Samuel B. and Margaret C. Mosher Foundation.

After growing up in New York — where he met his wife, Sue, in the fifth grade — Birch spent much of his young adult life studying and then working in universities in Michigan and Ohio.

He was vice president of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, when he was recruited in 1976 to become vice chancellor at UC Santa Barbara.

Birch didn’t know much about the seaside community, but he quickly found his passion here in the education, banking and nonprofit sectors.

An economist by trade, Birch said he got to “have my cake and eat it, too” by working on the business side of higher education.

In 1993, he became board chairman at Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and is still involved post-merger with Union Bank. He maintained finances for the Mosher family and Westmont College, remaining active today on boards at Westmont and the UCSB Foundation.

“Things just fell in place very nicely,” Birch said.

The Birches focus philanthropic efforts on the “make-a-difference” causes, mostly in health care, education and the arts.

In 2015, the couple helped lead Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics out of a financial crisis. They were instrumental in establishing the Youth Audience Program at Community Arts Music Association (CAMA).

Birch is also involved with All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church, the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, the Music Academy of the West, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation).

He spends his free time visiting with two daughters and four grandchildren, golfing, gardening and biking with friends every Saturday morning.

Retirement for Birch means doing the things you want to do, which is probably why he has technically retired three times.

In every case, he enjoys staying busy and committed to a cause. It’s undoubtedly why Birch was too preoccupied to notice how noteworthy his work really was.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >